Light pink flags. Dark pink flags. Big flags flying from businesses. Small flags flying from vehicles. No matter the shade or shape, they carry the same message: It’s time for the annual Homer Breast Cancer Run and Ride.
Begun in 1994, the event is sponsored by Kachemak Bay Family Planning Clinic. This year’s run and ride is Sunday, with registration at 8 a.m. and the race start at 9 a.m. at Mariner Park.
“We’re thrilled that this is the 20th anniversary of the Homer Breast Cancer Run,” said Heather O’Connor, KBFPC director.
To celebrate two decades of raising funds to help local women access breast cancer screening, treatment, education and other support services at no cost, KBFPC organizers have given the event a new shape.
“We were one of the first runs that happened here 20 years ago and it seems to have become popular to do runs through town,” said Mary Lou Kelsey, a member of KBFPC’s board of directors, who, along with Susan Kaplan, is coordinating this year’s run-ride. “We thought it would be fantastic to use the beach and make it attractive to even out-of-towners or others who like beach runs. We also wanted to include fat-tire bikes, a group that actively supports the clinic.”
Timed around Sunday morning’s minus 4.3 tide, the run-ride begins at Mariner Beach. A one-mile course will proceed a half mile toward the end of the Spit before looping a half mile back to the finish line. For those doing the five mile distance, they also begin at Mariner Beach, continue two miles toward the end of the Spit, loop back to Mariner Beach and finish with the one-mile course.
“Because it’s a beach run, I think it will attract other folks that just like to do more cross-country running and biking,” said Kelsey.
Early Sunday morning, as the tide goes out, Andy Haas of Kachemak Bay Running Club will set the course and Kelsey will mark it with pink flags. Haas also has volunteered to build a few small bridges to help runners stay dry-footed crossing some of the small outflows in the area.
“People may get the bottom of their feet wet in some of those spots, but none of them are going to get wet other than that,” said Kelsey.
The course also is perfect for spectators.
“The one mile is right out in front, so from Mariner Beach we’ll be able to see all the runners and bikers,” said Kelsey.
Walkers, as well as runners or walkers pushing strollers, also are invited to participate. Tents will mark the start-finish line, with “some great morning-type food and drink, a little celebration for after and door prizes,” said Kelsey.
Advance registration can be done online at kbfpc.org. In-person registration on Sunday begins at 8 a.m., with the run-ride starting at 9 a.m. Registration for participants 12 years of age and older is a $35 donation. Kids younger than 12 are free and encouraged to participate “whether they’re in strollers or walking the one-mile with their families,” said Kelsey. Dogs on leashes also are welcome.
The event has raised between $6,000 and $10,000 in past years, according to O’Connor.
“Much of that comes from ongoing support from loyal local businesses that donate each and every year, and have been for 20 years now,” she said.
That’s where Kaplan, KBFPC’s women’s health outreach manager, comes in. Not only does Kaplan spread the word about the services the clinic offers, she also secures sponsors for the run-ride. Donors — businesses, organizations and individuals — get their choice of a dark or light pink flag to fly as a sign of their support.
“I’m getting a great response. … It’s very exciting,” said Kaplan. “People want to be able to help. It’s not like we’re asking for a huge commitment, just a donation toward our effort. As usual, Homer is coming through.”
In addition to financial support, local businesses also have “been very generous with in-kind donations” said Kaplan. “We’ll have some great raffle items and some wonderful door prizes.”
Breast cancer is the second-most common, newly diagnosed cancer and the second leading cause of cancer death among women in the United States, according to statistics provided by the American Cancer Society. More than 2.7 million women in the United States have a history of breast cancer; one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer at some point in their lives, said O’Connor.
Since KBFPC opened in 1996, it has provided free annual health checks for women ages 21-64 through the Alaska Breast and Cervical Health Check Program. A partnership between KBFPC and South Peninsula Hospital provides “no-cost mam
mograms for an average 200 women in our community each year,” said O’Connor. “We believe that inability to pay should never be a barrier to getting these crucial healthcare services.”
Believing that early detection is the key and that mammograms can help detect breast cancer at its earliest and most treatable stage, KBFPC provided 613 clinical breast exams and 164 mammograms in 2013.
“Our goal is to ensure continued access to no-cost breast cancer screening services, honor our loved ones who are or have been affected by breast cancer, and have fun,” said O’Connor.
For more about the Homer Breast Cancer Run and Kachemak Bay Family Planning Clinic, visit kbfpc.org or call 235-3436.
McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at email@example.com.
20th annual Homer Breast Cancer Run-Ride
1-mile and 5-mile loop
Where: Mariner Beach
When: 9 a.m. Sunday
$35 donation for age 12 and older
Register online: kbfpc.org
Register Sunday: 8 a.m.
Runners, walkers, strollers and dogs on leash welcome
kbfpc.org or 235-3436